The MVP Award won by Boston Celtics center Dave Cowens in the NBA’s 1972-73 season sold for $156,000 at Grey Flannel’s Sixth Annual Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Auction held Aug. 12 in Springfield. The 170-lot auction conducted onsite at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame grossed more than $1.8 million, inclusive of the 20 percent buyer’s premium.
Hall of Famer Cowens’ MVP trophy was the first of its kind ever to make an appearance at auction. The 3’9" trophy was tipped to be the sale’s premier lot, and it did not disappoint, attracting 47 bids in the process.
“The price paid for the trophy shocked us,” said Grey Flannel Auctions’ President Richard E. Russek. “It was the last item in the sale, and after it hammered, the whole audience stood up and started clapping.”
“Basketball is no longer just an American sport,” he said. “There are leagues in Europe and Israel, and it’s huge in Asia. It’s a great international sport, now, and the crush of bidders from other nations in our auction was tangible proof of that.”
The enduring popularity of superstar Julius Erving was evidenced by the $132,000 price paid for an ABA Eastern Conference All-Star uniform game-used by “Dr. J” in 1974. The striking red, white and blue uniform embellished with stars, Erving’s name, his number “32” and “ABA” was one of a number of items in the auction that came from the collection of veteran TV commentator and 25-time Emmy Award winner Al Trautwig.
Another item that generated tremendous bidding interest was the only Lenny Wilkens game-used St. Louis Hawks road jersey known to exist. “It had all the bells and whistles – rarity, provenance, the connection to a Hall of Famer and Top 50 player, and a letter of authenticity from Lenny himself,” Russek said. Entered in the auction with a minimum-bid requirement of $10,000, it soared to a winning bid of $78,000.
The competition for rare jerseys was “frenzied,” Russek said. “Collectors knew what they wanted, and they went for it full bore.” Among the top apparel lots was a 1971 Wes Unseld Eastern Conference All-Star game-used and autographed uniform, $60,000; and a 1984-85 Michael Jordan rookie Chicago Bulls game-used and autographed road uniform, $54,000. A Dan Issel ABA Eastern Conference All-Star game-used uniform was close behind at $51,000.
Celtics fans cross several generations. This led to five-figure prices on several items displaying the fabled Boston team’s green and white motif. A 1973-74 Dave Cowens Boston Celtics game-used home jersey, which was offered together with a pair of Dennis Johnson’s game-used home shorts, scored $39,000. A treasure from 1980 was the Celtics home warm-up jacket worn by former collegiate superstar “Pistol” Pete Maravich, who joined the Celts that year as a free agent after playing 17 early-season games. With the Celtics team name emblazoned on the front and the name “Maravich” on the back, the jacket’s visual appeal was further enhanced by a shamrock logo on each of the sleeves. Fans pushed the bidding on the jacket to $60,000.
Of the five championship rings offered in the sale, Robert Horry’s dazzling 2005 San Antonio Spurs World Championship ring fared best. The weighty 14K white gold player’s ring with diamonds totaling 2.55 carats came with its original wood presentation box and letters of authenticity. Described in Grey Flannel’s catalog as “the finest-looking NBA championship ring this auction house has ever seen,” it brought $48,000.
The evening prior to the auction, Grey Flannel hosted a star-studded Reunion Dinner on Center Court at the Hall of Fame. It was attended by 2011 Hall of Fame inductees, returning Hall of Famers and a who’s who of other basketball dignitaries.
“This was our sixth year to host the pre-Induction dinner, but we’ve actually had a close association with the Hall of Fame for 25 years,” said Russek. “Many of the players at the dinner thanked us for our support, which was very gratifying. The association we enjoy with the Hall of Fame is very important to us. We’re in it for the long haul.”
Grey Flannel’s next event will be its annual Holiday Auction, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 15, 2011. Additional information will appear soon on the company’s website at www.greyflannelauctions.com. To contact Grey Flannel Auctions, call (631) 288-7800.